Judge sets jury trial date for lawsuit by parents of Gabby Petito against parents of Brian Laundrie

The mysterious disappearances and deaths of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie last year may have faded from the headlines but certainly not from the memories of the parents of those two deceased individuals, as they are now embroiled in a bitter court battle over the tragic deaths of their children.

Petito’s parents filed a civil lawsuit against Laundrie’s parents last month, and now a Florida judge has tentatively ordered that suit to proceed to a jury trial next year — assuming it isn’t dismissed before then, Fox News reported.

Seeking damages for mental pain and suffering

Petito and Laundrie had set out on a cross-country camping trip in August 2021 from which only Laundrie returned. The body of Petito was found weeks later in Wyoming strangled to death, and the body of Laundrie was found several more weeks after that in a Florida nature preserve, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Based on evidence gathered by the FBI, it was determined that Laundrie had killed Petito before later going missing and killing himself. Petito’s parents alleged in the lawsuit that Laundrie’s parents knew their son had murdered his fiance and kept that information to themselves.

The lawsuit, which the attorney for the Laundrie family has moved to dismiss, seeks $100,000 in damages from Laundrie’s parents for allegedly causing pain and suffering and mental anguish to Petito’s parents.

Local Fox affiliate WTVT reported that a Sarasota County judge overseeing the case ordered a jury trial to commence in August 2023.

However, Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino filed a motion to dismiss in response to the Petito’s lawsuit in which he insisted that the Petito’s simply have no evidence to support their claims that the Laundries knew their son had murdered his girlfriend or that they had intentionally withheld such information from Petito’s parents or purposely caused them distress.

The lawsuit could still be dismissed before trial

In light of that, and despite the judge setting a tentative date for a jury trial, that trial may never actually take place, according to local NBC affiliate WFLA.

Indeed, due to the motion to dismiss and in addition to setting the trial date, Judge Hunter W. Carroll also gave the Petito family attorney 20 days to file an amended complaint to address what he described as a “perceived procedural deficiency” in the initial lawsuit.

“To be clear, the Court in today’s order is not passing on Defendants’ arguments that this lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice,” the judge wrote. “The Court’s intent is to address the perceived procedural deficiency before addressing the merits of Defendants’ motion.”

What that means is that, following a review of the amended complaint as well as the motion to dismiss, the judge could ultimately decide that the case has no merit and reject it before the scheduled jury trial date arrives.

Despite that possibility, Petito family attorney Pat Reilly insisted he had a “high confidence level” that the lawsuit wouldn’t be dismissed and would ultimately go to trial — if it wasn’t settled out of court before that.

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